Archive for May 2009

Onion2

May 18, 2009

On January 20, 2009 we planted several dozen onion sets in our garden. It is now approaching the end of May and the onions are nearly ready for harvest.

They vary in size from golf balls to tennis balls. They are ready for harvest because the green tops are laying down.

We have an investment of 4.50 dollars delivering about 20 dollars worth of onion. Looks like lots of onion soup to take us through the summer.

NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE

May 17, 2009

Through the recent implementation of a ‘work-at-home’ business venture I came into the possession of a Dell Dimension E521 computer. The Dell is nothing special but it is of recent technology and sports decent speed and memory capacity. It also sports an NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE video card. The cards hardware indicates that this is a dual monitor card with both S-video TV out and standard VGA output. The display function in the control panel of the XP operating system has the card correctly identified as a 7300 LE but fails to indicated that it is a dual monitor card. The video driver loaded is the standard that Microsoft provides in the XP software.

Turns out you have to go to the NVIDIA website, download the real 7300 LE driver and install it before you can use the full capability of the 7300 LE video card. During the driver installation you are cautioned that the 7300 LE is not a card certified to work with the XP system.

This entire experience raises some significant questions for MicroSoft as well as Dell. Why would MicroSoft recognize the card yet inform the user that it may not be entirely compatible with the XP operating system. They admit to knowing the card exists yet they also admit that they are too lazy to test it on their software.

For Dell the main question is why do you use a video card not approved by Microsoft? And, more to the point, why do you use Microsoft’s crippled driver essentially locking out the user from receiving the full benefit of the NVIDIA card. There are lots of less expensive cards out there that will provide the same performance we can expect to get from an improperly implemented 7300 LE card.

Then it could very well be that the previous owner of this computer was responsible for installing this particular video card.

Sometimes we come to false conclusions based on supposition rather than fact. In this case it really does not matter. The correct driver makes the video card work to full capability and XP has yet to ‘throw up’ because the card is not approved. Makes you wonder what other non-approved stuff would work under XP

MagicJack Downside

May 12, 2009

It is not all fun and roses. Even the best solutions have downsides. There is no all encompassing solution to anything, but there is no reason why we should not know of the downsides before we are blindsided.

As indicated earlier, the MagicJack’s main problem is that it needs an active connection to the internet provided by a computer that is alive, well, and running. If any of those conditions ‘go away’, the MagicJack goes away and away goes your telephone line. A dead MagicJack will still take messages through the voice mail feature but will not take calls and will not tell you it is not taking calls until you try to use the phone and find it is dead.

Not good.

One way to loose the telephone connection is to loose power. If the PC power is interrupted, it will reset, reboot, and stall when it gets to the log-on screen. It will stay that way until you decide to log-on and let the MagicJack load again.

This is the normal, out-of-the-box, default performance of XP. Guess maybe Vista gives you the same problem. Don’t know for sure about Vista but when it comes to problems, Microsoft is real good a keeping old problems and creating new ones from release to release. However, there is a solution you can implement if you are using XP (using XP+SP2 here).

Set up the log-on feature to allow the welcome screen. Then go into the computer management utility and get rid of the Guest user. Just delete it. The idea here is to get to one user only and make sure that one user has admin priveledges and no password requirements.

Once set up this way, XP will automatically bring the computer back up to a useful condition when it reboots. This setup will not hang up on the welcome screen or wait for a user to log-on. Log-on will be automatic for the one user remaining.

Now when the power fails, the computer will come back up and load the MagicJack when the power is restored.

If you feel the need for a phone when the power fails, use your cell-phone. If you don’t have a cell-phone, you will need an old dialup phone connected to an old land-line telephone line. That is an old copper wire telephone line. Those new fiber-optic lines need power. When the power fails on the fiber-optic lines, they will stay hot only as long as the batteries hold out (probably as much as several hours).

Unfortunately, old copper wire, land lines, are being phased out completely. You may not be able to get one of those at any price.

The good news is that the money you save with the MagicJack may be enough to buy a very simple cell-phone and simple service program.

UPS

May 11, 2009

Not the brown shirt guys but the Uninterruptable Power Supply. The UPS is what you need if you want to remain “on-line” when the power goes “off-line”. That is if you are using a standard desktop computer and consider your work valuable enough to save.

We recently had a power glitch due to a local thunderstorm. Sure enough all our desktops lost their minds, rebooted, and woke up in a new world. The only computer which was immune was the old iBook. Even though it was being used like a desktop, this laptop always runs off its internal battery. The power cord to this remarkably reliable device merely serves to keep the internal battery up to charge.

Just one more good thing about my iBook. It has a built-in UPS. A very significant UPS too because it can run the iBook for almost six hours.

Wow! No data loss from power glitches or Microsoft Software! Apple did a very good thing when they made the iBook.

Dial Up

May 9, 2009

Believe it or not there are some holdouts still offering dial-up internet service. I saw an ad on TV just the other day. Under $10 a month for dial-up service. Of course you need an active phone line for that to work and that will cost you another $30 to $40 a month. So now we are up around close to $50 for slow dial-up internet service.

Seems close to absurd when for $60 a month you can get broadband and cable too. Then for a YEARLY fee of around $20 plus another $20 for the hardware you can run a VOIP on that broadband connection.

Dial-up? I guess if you have a telephone (VOIP or otherwise) you could also have dial-up but why bother when you already have broadband.

Unbelievable! Some people just refuse to believe when technology has destroyed their business prospects.

Video Jitter

May 9, 2009

I have been using a PVR-250 card in a Pentium 3 running at 1.2ghz with 2giglebytes of memory for several years now. It has worked well and without incident. Recently I moved the PVR-250 to the last PCI slot because I thought it would make other hardware provisions more convenient.

Yes, convenience is not as important as performance. Shortly after the relocation I began to notice an annoying video jitter. Some video frames were either dropped or distorted.

Today I restored the PVR-250 card to its rightful place alongside the AGP video card. No more jitter.

I am beginning to think when it comes to computers and performance I may be my own worst enemy.

I am not suggesting this is a fix for all occasions, but if you have a PVR and intermittent video jitter or worse, try moving the card to a slot that has a higher IRQ priority. This may be particularly effective if your system is low on speed or memory.

Give GM Another Look

May 7, 2009

No sure why this is becoming a GM swan song. Give them another look? We have been looking at them for decades and still looking at them now. We don’t like what we see.

Here is a company that admits to having built substandard cars. Substandard cars are made by substandard companies. Most intelligent folk don’t fall for the ‘buy American’ hype. Toyota, Honda, and other ‘foreign’ cars are built in America. It is some of the domestic stuff that comes from factories oversees.

When new cars are extremely expensive it makes sense to investigate thoroughly what you are paying for. You can take the crap out of crappy cars but crap remains in crappy companies. Given a cholce with no economic advantage in either decision, I would rather do business with a company that had a good reputation.